Cooling your indoor environment is far from being considered completely environmentally-friendly, but by using these 7 tips, you will be able to reduce your energy usage considerably, which will help curb some of those guilty feelings for wanting to stay cool this summer.
Humidity vs. Cooling
High relative humidity can wreck havoc on your central air system by forcing the condenser to work harder to removing the humidity. Humidity after all can make a room that is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, feel like 77 degrees. Central air conditioning works by removing moisture inside the home which would otherwise slow the cooling process of sweat evaporating from the skin. If your home is well sealed and insulated, once your central air pulls most of the moisture out, it should be able to maintain the dry air fairly efficiently, but there are a few things you can do to improve upon this. First, use a bathroom exhaust fan when taking a shower, second, cover your dirt crawl space with a plastic moisture barrier (and tape the seems), third, cover your pots when cooking with water, and fourth, make sure that your clothes dryer is properly ventilated to the outside.
Evaporative Cooling vs. Central Air
After just talking about how high humidly can make a room feel warmer, I am now going to tell you that by adding moisture to a room that is dry, will make it feel cooler. If you live in a dry climate, evaporative coolers (swamp coolers) can keep your home every bit as cool as a central air unit at a quarter of the cost and energy. Evaporative coolers work by simply blowing cool, moist air into the home, which by the simple process of evaporation, allows the air in the room to eventually cool. Technology has also brought us similar systems called indirect and two-stage evaporative coolers, which uses the same principle, yet does it in a way that minimizes the amount of humidity introduced into the home substantially. Keep in mind however that in most dry climates a little moisture can be quite a relief to both the skin and your wood furniture.
Thermal Curtains and Shades
We use thermal curtains in the winter to hold the warm heat in and they can be used in the summer to hold the heat out. While it may be tempting to allow all the glorious sunshine in the room during those summer months, it is actually impeding the function of your cooling system by introducing quite a bit of unwelcome heat into your indoor environment. To minimize this, keep the suns rays out with thermal window treatments where the sunlight tends to be the most concentrated during the hottest part of the day. You can leave the drapes open in the shady areas of your home for natural light. Then in the evening (where appropriate) it is a good idea to go ahead and open all the curtains back up to allow for any of the built up heat from the day to escape.
Be Thermostat Smart
While many people think that by taking an active role in their thermostat settings they can improve its efficiency, they can actually end up doing more harm than good. A good setting to leave your thermostat at all the time is 78 degrees Fahrenheit. This is typically comfortable for most people and also fairly simple for a well insulated home to maintain with a minimum of electricity. Some people prefer to set it much higher during the day while away, and then drop it down to 72 degrees once they get home thinking it will help bring the temperature down quicker. The fact of the matter is, dropping the temperature below 78 will not cool the room any quicker and it also forces your central air unit to work overtime. In many cases, dropping the thermostat to 72 to overcompensate for a sweltering home is more wasteful than if the thermostat had been left at a reasonable 78 for the entire day.
Another time when home owners are often puzzled as to how to use their air-conditioning properly is when they are away on vacation. This becomes of particular concern when they have pets and plants that will be left behind. The typical advice, is that most newer, well-insulated homes will not reach too much above the mid-eighties in the summer if the drapes are closed, so turning off the central air completely might be a possibility. An older home may not have the same insulating properties can see temperatures sore into the 90’s, which is why these homes should definitely have some sort of cooling unit left on, but set to an appropriately higher temperature. You might also want to shut down all heat producing appliances in your home, such as the water heater and entertainment system. If you can empty out your refrigerator and unplug it (leave the door open), you can save quite a substantial amount of electricity here too.
Placement of Central Air Unit
If you are planning to install an air-conditioning unit yourself, there is one very important component that you will need to take careful consideration of… placement. An air conditioner sitting out in the sun during the hottest part of the day is going to have to work much harder than if sitting in the shade. If your current set-up has your unit located in an unfavorable location or your options are very limited, you can always plant trees or shrubs around or provide some type of awning cover. The only time you’d want your air conditioning unit to actually be out in an area that gets plenty of sun, is if you happen to have one of the new solar powered units that have recently began to surface.
by Eric J. Leech, Planet Green posted in TLC howstuffworks.com